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Argentine Jews Remember Deadly 1994 Blast

Terrorism: Those at Buenos Aires service criticize failure to find the bombers. They urge removal of 'rotten apples' from security forces.

July 19, 1996| From Reuters

BUENOS AIRES — Hundreds of Argentine Jews held a tearful memorial Thursday for victims of a bomb attack on their main community center two years ago and criticized authorities for failing to find the culprits.

"Two years after the attack, here we are again asking for justice with all the indignation and the pain," said Norma Lew, the mother of one of the 87 people killed in the car-bomb attack on the community center. "But our plea for justice remains as strong as ever."

Despite tame reactions from Jewish leaders hopeful about the recent arrest of Buenos Aires police officers allegedly involved in the bombing, people attending the service vented their frustration at lack of progress in the probe.

They also accused the government of not having had the courage to weed out "rotten apples" from the security forces, a dark heritage from the days the country was ruled by the military, and said Jews are now paying the consequences.

Twelve police officers and two ex-officers were arrested last week in connection with the attack. Some of them are suspected of selling stolen vehicles, including the van used as a car bomb to reduce the community center to rubble.

But Israel, the United States and the Argentine judge investigating the case all say they suspect that Iranian-backed guerrillas were responsible for the blast.

It was one of the worst peacetime attacks on Jews and the second in recent years on the Buenos Aires Jewish community, which is the fourth-largest in the world. A bomb attack on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 killed 29 people.

Among mourners at Thursday's service were many teenagers, who held hands and embraced as the roll call of victims was read out and candles were lighted in remembrance.

"We are here because if we don't keep coming and supporting what the community is doing, no one will do it for us," said Marcela, 15. "But we are scared. Things have changed so much since the bombing."

She recalled the days when her Jewish school did not need a police car parked in front of the door, behind concrete barriers built to prevent a repeat of the 1994 attack.

The presence of the youngsters did not go unnoticed.

"They are our memory. When we see them here we know that though people died, they won't be forgotten," said Jorge Cohen, a survivor of the 1992 embassy bombing.

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